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The giant raised its fists into the air and smashed the ground. Morpha managed to travel but a few steps before he was devoured by the ground crumbling beneath his feet.
“Nobody told me they had an Earth Giant!”
His teammates’ voices flooded his ears. Joey exited Valkyrie’s Peak and clicked Yoojin’s name on Discord, the chat app for gamers.
“Merida?” Joey said in a frustrated tone.
“Hold on!” She responded anxiously. This was soon followed by an angry, “Damn!”
“I thought you scouted the surrounding area?”
“I did many times,” Yoojin fired back. “Earth Giants rare, very hard to wake. Plus they have cloaking advantage on grass.”
“You’re the strategist, you should have known it was a threat!”
“I told you charging toward castle is reckless,” Yoojin said. “Don’t blame me.”
Joey shoved his keyboard aside and sat back in his gaming chair. “All right, I’ll talk to you later.”
Joey took off his headset and tossed it onto his desk. He gave his eyes a rub, they felt like sandpaper. He blinked repetitively before shutting down his computer. The time was 5:57 a.m. Joey grabbed his phone, set the alarm, and jumped into bed. The moon glimmered through the window.
Two hours later Joey’s alarm blared by his bedside. He slowly slithered out of his covers, his body a pile of demolished bricks. He grabbed his phone, shut off the alarm, slammed it down. He wanted nothing more than to collapse back into the warmth of his mattress. Instead he padded across the cold wooden flooring to the bathroom.
Joey looked in the mirror. Thick black crescents rested rudely beneath his dry, red eyes. He tried to refresh them by splashing cold water onto his face. He’d been meaning to buy eye drops but hadn’t got round to it. Joey ruffled his hair and noticed that his hairline had receded a bit more. Twenty-one years old and already going bald, he thought, lowering his head in shame.
It was refreshing to step out into the frigid autumn air of Thunder Bay. Joey jumped onto the bus and made his way to the back as always. He took out his phone, put in his ear buds, and opened one of his app games, wishing to disappear into the interactive narrative. As the game loaded, Joey gazed with his tired eyes out the window. Lake Superior sparkled in the morning sun. The Sleeping Giant, the hill formation that resembles a prone rock giant, rested peacefully on the shore of the bay. You can sort of see a head, a chin, arms folded on his chest, legs outstretched. This land mass always managed to bring a spiritual calm to Joey. It was a reprieve from gaming and work. But the bus moved on and the giant slipped from sight and Joey went back to his game.
Joey turned to his boss, Ray, a tall thin man with slicked greying hair, a navy blue polo shirt and dress pants that he seemed to wear every day, and a half-finished cigarette in his mouth with another one tucked into the top of his ear ready to go.
“Sorry boss,” was all Joey could bring himself to say.
“Sorry’s not going to make up lost time,” Ray said bitterly. He took a drag of his cigarette and exhaled into the thick air of the printing mill. “We need to have that order of restaurant pamphlets finished by the end of today. Go, get to work.”
Joey nodded meekly and made his way to the industrial cutter, a mechanical beast very like a demon from Valkyrie’s Peak. A soaring stack of pamphlets lay to the right. As he did every day, Joey sorted and loaded them into the machine to cut them to size. He placed the cuts in piles on a skid, then grabbed a large metal pump truck, jacked the skid and moved it to the back of the plant for packaging and pick up.
“Hurry it up Joey,” Ray said at one point as he passed by, lighting another cigarette.
“Doing my best, Ray,” Joey said.
A gust of wind blew in from the loading dock, carrying the scent of dust and grime.
The day slowly wore away. Joey cut his lunch break short and by 6:10 loaded the last skid. Many of the workers had gone home so Joey also packaged the pamphlets himself, as Ray said they were to be picked up in the morning. Joey shut the cutter off and wiped the sweat from his brow. He felt a faint sense of pride for completing the entire order. He stopped by Ray’s office on his way out.
“That’s the last of ‘em Ray. See you tomorrow.”
“This is actually the last major order for the month Joey,” Ray said as he signed a document on his desk.
Joey leaned against the doorframe in emotional exhaustion. “So when should I come in next?”
“I’ll give you a call when we get another big order,” Ray said. He looked up from his desk. “You’ll be the first to know.”
“Think you can give me an idea when? A week or two?”
“Probably longer than that.”
Joey took a step into the office. “Ray, I got to make rent.”
“Hey, what can I tell you? It’s an up-and-down business.”